Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong (
"To make a living for ourselves is not going to be easy," said Goh, who is now senior minister in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍).
"You just look at the world map, you can't even find Singapore," the Sunday Times of Singapore quoted Goh as saying at a campaign rally. "Five hundred million people in Southeast Asia. We are 4 million, less than 1 percent of the population."
The ruling People's Action Party is expected to retain its overwhelming dominance when more than 1.2 million Singaporeans vote, but the opposition has fielded enough candidates to prevent a walkover as in some previous elections.
Critics say that curbs on expression and other strict controls hurt the opposition, though government leaders say they would welcome a serious debate.
So far, election talk has focused more on local issues than on commentary about Singapore's place in the world.
Ruling party candidates point out that they have the political leverage to upgrade neighborhoods for their constituents. Local media, which tends to support government policy, have given heavy coverage to a candidate of the opposition Workers' Party who failed to submit an election form and then gave conflicting accounts of what happened.
Goh said the top concerns for Singapore's prime minister were national security in the face of any terrorist threats and periodic instability in the region, as well as job creation and finding news ways for the economy to grow.
"Security is what keeps a prime minister awake at night. It's a 24-hour job," the newspaper quoted Goh as saying Saturday night.
In 2000, Singapore, a US ally, broke up what it said was a ring of Islamic militants who were plotting to attack Western targets in the city-state.
Singapore's output has "more or less reached the potential of the economy," said Goh, who was prime minister from 1990 to 2004.